Getting F&B back to business: Focus on employees

One of the greatest wartime leaders in modern history, Winston Churchill, famously said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

As we all begin to see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel and the number of new infections and tragic deaths from the coronavirus continues to fall, we must begin the process of planning how to effectively and safely re-open our hotels, restaurants and bars.

Over the next three weeks I will use my blog to share with you some useful tips on how to prepare yourselves, your colleagues and your property for the reopening. The first blog will cover what you should be doing with your employees. The week after will include tips on new standards required protect your employees and guests from this invisible virus, and the third blog will give some advice on how to protect your operating profit. 

Getty Images
Getty Images

Employees first

Check in with your employees now. How do they feel? What are their concerns, and are you able to address them? Are they ready to return to work? (Typically, if they were furloughed, as long as you are providing a safe workplace, employees are required by law to return to work). Be realistic with them about hours and expectations regarding pay.

Precautions. Ensure you bring in a Department of Health inspector to determine that your premises are safe. Communicate this to everyone, along with all the precautions you are taking in advance.

Ensure that you have the PPE you will need for all your employees (it should be provided free of charge). All staff should be required to wear masks; create your own policy regarding gloves – but be careful with this. Even with gloves on, staff MUST wash their gloved hands regularly. 

If you are advertising for employees you should make a ‘clean bill of health’ a condition of employment.

Returning to work healthy – and staying that way. Require all employees returning to work to advise you if a) they have tested positive for COVID-19 and b) they have recently been in contact with someone known to be infected with COVID-19 OR they have traveled to an area known to be infected. In such cases, employees must self-isolate for 14 days.

What happens if an employee is found to be infected with COVID-19? It is recommended that you immediately contact your local Department of Health, advise any other employees with whom this person may have come into contact, and close down any  areas where this employee has been working.

Treat your pre-opening as an opening  

Create a task force of employees to return to work early to get your F&B areas ready. The following must be a priority:

  • Deep cleaning of all areas and creation of new cleaning schedules
  • Reorganization of all areas (back and front of house) to allow for social distancing
  • Updating of message boards so communication is crystal clear
  • Placing orders for F&B and supplies 
  • Writing up of new standards and training manuals
  • Organize a pep rally to thank your employees for their loyalty while on furlough and get everyone motivated for the ‘new normal’


All employees should be scheduled for training in advance of reopening. Employee expectations should be communicated in a very clear way. Let them know the consequences of noncompliance. This is serious business.

Training should address:

  • New policies and procedures being introduced by the hotel relating to health and hygiene 
  • Any new service standards
  • How to answer questions about COVID-19 so there is a consistent message from staff to guests

Communicate with your guests

  • Communicate your new standards and procedures in advance to all guests and require them to advise any guests they bring with them. Let them know what you’ve done to make your hotel or restaurant safe. 
  • Determine whether you will you require temperature checks for guests arriving at your hotel or restaurant, and communicate this clearly on your website and over the phone.
  • Request that your guests inform you if they (or any of the guests in their party) have recently come into contact with anyone who has tested positive with COVID-19.